"I hate this and don't know what to do!"
"I hate this and I didn't want to be in this situation in the first place!"
"What do I do? I don't think that I can go back to where I was. I'm not sure what to do going forward. I question whether I have the ability to move ahead. I'm plagued with... doubt... fear... and uncertainty. I'm stuck... frozen... and unsure about what to do?"
"Can you help me?"
"Please help me!"
I've had this "conversation" — you notice it is not a conversation so much as a listening experience since only one person has done all the talking — on many occasions with people facing all sorts of things like...
- being fired;
- having been diagnosed with a horrible disease;
- being left by a spouse or someone to whom they are engaged;
- being cut by a sports team;
- losing a lot of money in the stock market;
- having been caught in an embarrassing situation and sin;
- losing someone you love, especially a child, in death;
- finding yourself injured and trying to deal with unmanageable pain.
So if you find yourself in a challenging time, or if you realize that you will face challenging times in the future, then this reminder should be a blessing to you. It comes from a key transition time in the Bible: Moses' death and Joshua assuming leadership right before the Israelites are to enter the land God had promised them (Joshua 1:1-18).
Let's take a minute and remind ourselves of their situation.
Moses, the man who has been your leader for all your life is dead. The place where he was supposed to get you, called The Promised Land, is on the other side of a raging river. That land is full of walled cities that your parents and grandparents were afraid to engage in battle. You are not trained for warfare — much less, siege warfare — and all the cities have strong walls and well trained military defenders.
To make matters worse, your new leader that is supposed to take you where Moses couldn't is named Joshua. Joshua? Yes, Joshua! He's the guy who has never been more than a vice president or an assistant coach. Joshua is God's choice. Joshua is even the logical choice because he's hung out with Moses for over forty years. Problem is, Joshua has never been a leader. He's been Moses' shadow, confident, protector, and friend, but never a leader. And the one time he stood against the crowd as one of the twelve spies, he didn't sway them or lead them. In fact, they wanted to kill him!
In this moment of crucial transition, the Holy Spirit points us to three principles to help us through our own crises, times of transition, and fearful times. More than a formula, these three principles are a lifestyle — not a quick fix, but a way of living each day.
- Rely on the faithfulness of God (Joshua 1:1-9).
Relying means more than just believing in our heads. Relying on God means that we act, trusting that God will be with us when we don't see him. Relying on God means that we have seen his faithfulness with others and know that he will be faithful to us. Relying means that even if Satan throws us a curve ball, works against us, or even does things to hurt us and those we love, we trust that God will work it to our good (Romans 8:28). So we remind ourselves of God's repeated promise to never leave us or forsake us (Joshua 1:5; Genesis 28:15; Deuteronomy 31:6-18; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).
- Obey the will of the Lord (Joshua 1:10-18).
We live in a time when obedience to anyone or anything feels outdated and is certainly out of style. But preparing ourselves for decisions, transitions, and challenges means we reacquaint ourselves with Scripture and what God asks of us. Obedience is an active form of trust which says, "You are God and I am not. You are wise and I need your wisdom. You are holy and I want to reflect that holiness. So I may not completely understand the 'why' of your commands and your word to me, I will still obey what you ask because you are worthy of my obedience and have proven your love for me in Jesus!" Obedience is the "secret ingredient" to any recipe for negotiating an uncertain future or difficult times.
- Live with courage and strength (Joshua 1:6; Joshua 1:7; Joshua 1:9; Joshua 1:18).
This is a reminder that courage is not the absence of fear, but is a trust in God that gives us the strength to face and overcome our fears with the confidence that our Father is with us and will never forsake us. The natural reaction of being "frozen with fear" is replaced with the Spirit-natural reaction of being "strong and courageous"!
No matter what you may be facing in your life right now, I pray that the Lord is near and real to you, that you trust in faithfulness, that you will walk with him in obedience to his will, and that you act with the strength the Spirit inspires and the courage that faith instills. The LORD God, your Father in heaven, will never leave you or forsake you as you face your future as his child!